directed by: Josef von Sternberg


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Submitted by Charles O'Brien on 2006-06-29

Charles O'Brien's comment:
After a title identifying location as Morocco, at 0.00: fade in on man struggling with camel, legioneers marching offscreen, women waiting as the legioneers approach; a sargeant cautions the men about women, as legioneer Tom (Gary Cooper) exchanges glances with a woman who briefly removes her veil (she will turn out to be Mme. Cesar), underscored by what sounds like North-African prayer music; 5.05: nighttime in harbor; Menjou and Amy Jolly (Marlene Dietrich); scene in nightclub with Menjou, who serves as a means for introducing a variety of other characters; 10.55: Amy in her dressing room, wearing a man's tuxedo, and informed by club owner that the house is full; 12.30: curtain rises, the band plays, and Amy comes onstage to boos and catcalls from the rude audience; she sings a song in French, and, as the band continues to play, exits to applause, throwing a rose to Tom; 19.15: Amy returns and sings "What am I Bid for My Apple," the music continuing as she walks through the club selling apples, during which she passes Tom the key to her room; the song stops at 24.45: Mme. Cesar, an officer's wife, confronts Tom over her interest in him; Tom then visits Amy in her room in a long scene ending at 34.00: Tom meets Mme. Cesar outside Amy's, witnessed by Officer Cesar, who has been spying on them; 37.35: Tom is interrogated by Officer Cesar; Menjou and Amy arrive to help Tom; 43.10: Tom is in cell, where he learns that he has been freed; Amy is told by Menjou that he has protected Tom by having him transferred to a different location; 48.00: Menjou asks Amy to marry him, while Tom listens at door (rapid cutting); Tom enters room and asks Amy to leave with him; Amy exits to perform her stage act [perhaps a musical number was planned for this moment, but then cut out]; 52.40: the next day, as the legion prepares to march, Tom says goodbye to several native women, accompanied by marching music; then, the music continuing, Tom and Amy bid each other farewell; 56.30: Amy watches the "rear guard" of women who follow the legion as they march out of town, then fade to black; 57.50: scene of the legion entering the town of Mogador; scene between Amy and Menjou; 63.40: legion on the march, encountering gunfire; Tom is ordered by vindictive Officer Cesar into a deadly firefight (during the scene the legioneers utter brief commands and responses in French); 67.30: Amy and Menjou have an engagement party, and learn that Cesar is reported dead (an officer at the party delivers a somewhat lengthy toast to Menjou in French); legioneers can be heard returning in the distance, and Amy rushes outside to search for Tom, accompanied by marching drum music; but Tom is not with them, so Amy returns and announces she is going to Amalfa to find Tom; 76.30: woman of color sings song in Amalfa as Menjou and Amy arrive, the song continuing as Amy runs from bed to bed in the hospital, searching for Tom (56 second take); the song fades out at 68.20, and then segues into a piano piece that continues intermittently until 84.40; 84.50: the legion prepares to march out of town, as does the "rear guard," which Amy joins; the film ends with an 84 second take of Amy trailing the entourage until disappearing over the hillside.

Number of shots:
MSL 7.7 7.2
StDev 12.4 11.6
Min 0.6 0.7
Max 84.5 64.6
CV 1.05 1.03

Step: Vertical resolution: Height:
Degree of the trendline: Moving average : Color code?

Users' comments:

Author: Charley Leary Date: 2007-02-15

As Sternberg's/Dietrich's films are often described as theatrical, I think this measurement is telling in that there is little difference in ASL between "story" and "song" sections; for the performances, for us as much as the diegetic audience, one might expect longer takes - but, not so in terms of ASL - although at trendline 6 a plateau of sorts emerges during the nightclub act.

Author: Charles O'Brien Date: 2007-02-19

Yes, good point about the absence of a big slow-down in cutting pace during the sequence of song performances in the nightclub. One thing I'd like to try for this film is something along the lines of what Charley did for Cassavetes, and that I've imitated in my postings over the past few months, i.e., distinguishing between shots with synch singing versus other sorts of shots. As I recall, the song sequences in Morocco are heavily intercut with shots of the audience, who Marlene, through her bravura stage presence, ultimately wins over by the performance's end. My hypothesis is that the same pattern will be evident in Morocco that can be found in other films of the time: that is, the singing shots, on average, will be much longer than other sorts of shots. In other words, if I'm right, then the longer shots in the orange-coded song sequences will be synched singing shots, whereas the shorter ones will be interpolated audience shots. For instance, one of the shots during the sequence goes on for some 64 seconds: my guess is that the shot in question is a synched singing shot. On the other hand, maybe Morocco is something of an exception. I came across somewhere (in a German trade journal!) a quote from Jesse Lasky, the Paramount chief, who cited Morocco as an example of new approach adopted by Paramount's production wing, whereby dialog would be much reduced in favour of "action" (recall the film's closing shot, which lasts nearly a minute and a half, and, if I recall, nobody says or sings anything).

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